The world of drugs and illegal immigration collided not in Texas or California Friday, but in a York County courtroom. As always happens for drug dealers who do not die from bullets, drug dealing leads to cops, then to prison.
For Alberto Toscano, an undocumented immigrant purportedly selling drugs to feed his kids in Mexico, that meant 15 years with no parole.
“I am sorry for what I did,” Toscano said through an interpreter, as he speaks almost no English except “heroin.”
Now he knows the word “prison.”
Toscano, 40, did not understand when visiting Circuit Court Judge Eugene Griffith of Newberry asked through the interpreter if he had used alcohol or drugs in the last 24 hours before pleading guilty, as that would wipe out the deal. Toscano was told by an interpreter, hesitated, then said, “Tequila, and beer.”
“In the jail?” asked the incredulous judge.
Another translation showed Toscano that the judge was asking if Toscano had used alcohol or drugs in the last day – not back in December when he was jailed without bond.
There were a few chuckles at the tequila and beer comment. Toscano even cracked a smile. It broke in a second.
Because nobody laughed at the death, the destruction by the uncountable kilograms of heroin brought into York County almost every day. And the guns, the violence, the lives ruined by dope and those who sell it and use it.
Toscano is an undocumented immigrant from Mexico whose record includes a drug-dealing conviction in Nevada 15 years ago, and two busts for illegal entry into the United States, after which he was deported. Still, right up until Dec. 5, when police stopped his car in Fort Mill next to a church, and then searched his apartment in Rock Hill next door to where kids play, Toscano had sold heroin on the streets of York County.
Prosecutor Ryan Newkirk read in court the horrors of drugs and how somebody uncaught, somewhere, preys on the penniless immigrant who ends up in prison.
Newkirk spoke of uncountable kilograms of heroin sold right here.
Toscano was caught selling heroin to an informant on Flint Hill Road in Fort Mill on Dec. 5. His car was searched by narcotics agents who had targeted him – the wads of cash and enough cellphones to start a Best Buy were pretty good indicators – and drugs were found.
When police went to the Rock Hill apartment where Toscano lived with a roommate, they found more than 600 grams of heroin, about $20,000 in cash – and more cellphones. There were baggies and scales and balloons, not for a birthday party, but for dope dealing.
Not only York county cops, but federal Drug Enforcement Agency cops, had been investigating for weeks.
Toscano and his roommate, Alejandro Garcia-Garcia, 25, were charged with trafficking heroin and more. They were denied bond and sat in jail for months.
At that apartment complex in Rock Hill, and others like it around the city, and in Fort Mill where the drug bust started, live thousands of Hispanic immigrants from Mexico and other countries. The parents work in landscaping, construction, restaurants, housekeeping, service jobs.
They work. A lot. There is no drug dealing.
The kids of those immigrants pile onto school buses, bookbags bulging, eyes shining, heading for school.
The kids just want to learn and the parents demand the kids learn so that America for them is not drugs and jails, but dreams.
Immigrants such as Toscano lived right next to them, selling their drugs as most immigrants work until bone tired in legitimate jobs.
Those immigrants are America.
Unfortunately, so are a few who sell drugs.
Toscano, through an interpreter, admitted his role Friday in drug dealing to the tune of $3,000 a day. He pleaded guilty to a deal for 15 years, but his lawyer, 16th Circuit Assistant Public Defender Melissa Inzerillo, claimed that Toscano sold the drugs because he had to. That it was “his job” and the money went to pay off his fare to get into the country illegally, after a promise of a construction job turned out to be bogus.
He was paid a weekly salary and “given drugs to sell,” then sent almost all the money home to Mexico to his family, she said. The scheme and the drugs belonged to Garcia-Garcia, the co-defendant who is still in jail on pending charges.
Toscano, said Inzerillo, “was a little fish.”
He acknowledged that if he went to trial he would be convicted and might die in an American prison because his sentence could run as long as 90 years if added up.
Toscano was told that the judge had accepted the deal that would send him to prison for 15 years – but he needed no interpreter when two bailiffs told him to start walking through an open door.
“Jail” needs no translation.
Andrew Dys • 803-329-4065 • firstname.lastname@example.org